A few weeks ago, on Feb. 5, I celebrated my 21st birthday. I’ve been waiting for this day for years and now it’s finally come and gone. I celebrated
all weekend with friends and family and was even fortunate enough to have multiple birthday cakes. Amidst the happiness and gaining this internal achievement, I find myself left feeling puzzled.
Although I can legally do a myriad of new activities, I wonder if I’m doing this whole ‘growing- up’ thing correctly? I’m recently single, which has been a daunting task in itself. I’ve been learning to maneuver my everyday life as a solo pilot, which is ironic as I’ve spent the last year trying to figure out how to balance my life while sharing it with some- one else.
My thoughts are drowned by a larger question: What is my life supposed to be like at 21?
I know this may seem a tad dramatic. My life
is going according to plan for the average person: I’m a college student, I do my work and go to class, spend time with friends and participate in activities. But I have doubts in certain aspects of my life as I grow older. I wonder if I’m presenting myself as the correct age, and wonder what would warrant me to look old enough to not get asked for my ID.
For instance, fashion is a major part of my life. I’ve accumulated quite the collection of pieces in my years and travels, and as I stare at my bustling closet of clothing I wonder what a person who’s 21 wears. I ponder if it’s acceptable to sport the same tee shirt I’ve had since high school around my col- lege campus? When is it time to get rid of it? Does it make me look childish? I ask myself if I’m painting the appropriate picture of an “adult,” and ques-
tion my patterned Converse sneakers before I walk out of the house. Am I supposed to dress casually
or formally? Do baggy jeans make me look immature? This ties into the culture of New Paltz and
the internalized fashion show that everyone puts
on while walking around. The pressure to maintain my wardrobe according to the social standards while also figuring out how to dress more mature is frustrating.
Along with fashion, I debate the length of my hair. It’s gotten quite long since the last time I went to a salon. Am I now supposed to do something to my hair daily? Is the messy beach hair too childish? Feeling this way is partially influenced by social me- dia of course, and although there are no set guide- lines for how to become an adult, these thoughts are part of a bigger confusion.
Although others may provide their criticism
towards me, I don’t pay any attention to that now. However, these internalized thoughts daunt my brain for my younger self’s sake. I wonder if I’m reaching her expectations for how life would pan out by 21.
Sometimes, I question how other people are handling the process of maturing. It seems as though some people still struggle with figuring out how to handle their emotions, and I find myself
in situations similar to those my younger sister is experiencing in middle school. I can’t believe that as a human who’s lived for twenty-one years, I’m still hearing about petty drama. When I was younger, I
was under the impression that as we grew up, rather than spreading rumors, people would treat confrontation like adults, completely disregarding the whole gossip portion of the situation. In the process of maturing, I felt as though we would all have a common understanding of how to handle things
— but I even see these traits within my own social circle. Perhaps this is a pipe dream, or I’m putting energy into the wrong places, but I personally find no enjoyment in giving into childish circumstances.
I’ve had a lot of time on my hands lately, being single and all. I find myself constantly listening to music to drown out my dynamic thoughts. At 21, I’ve come to reflect on my love for my passions. When I’m not in class, I’ve been spending my time figuring out what things actually give me enjoy- ment, rather than the attention-span eater that is TikTok.
My mindless activities have helped me reignite my creativity. I’ve been painting and playing guitar and writing in my journal and finding new music on
Spotify and reading books. I’ve been taking walks and reflecting on the place I’m at in my life right now. In this time, I’m finally able to reflect on my- self as a person, and gain more independence within myself. This time in my life is when I have to learn to be my own best friend, with the future being so uncertain. In a year from now, I’ll be trying to make plans for my future. The daunting day of graduation will be looming near and everything that’s familiar to me now could be completely different.
Aging is such a complex thing and this was the first birthday that I’ve actually felt older. The social scene of my weekends has transformed since I first arrived here. We spend more time actually talking to each other and sharing opinions on real topics, in opposition to our youthful banter of freshman year. I reflect on the people I surround myself with daily and how all of our different areas of study make for very enriching conversations. The majority of my friends are STEM majors and it’s interesting to hear their opinion on certain things, as well as fun facts they learn in their classes. It’s enlightening to be fortunate enough to not only learn in the classroom but also within my own home with my peers.
I feel as though your twenties are supposed to be filled with self discovery, yet some people seem to be harsher on each other’s progress than others. As a college student, we’re all just figuring it out at our own pace, and this reigns true in every aspect of a young person’s life. Work consistency, wardrobe choices, eating schedule — it all becomes developed in the habits we enforce for ourselves at this veryyoung and influential part of our lives.
Nowadays, whenever I return to my hometown, it feels more and more like a hometown and less like my actual home. I’ve created a life here in New Paltz and when I have to leave it feels more painful than leaving Long Island.
I’ve really been enjoying this chapter of my life. As I walk home from class, with my headphones blaring “Suck it and See” by Arctic Monkeys in my ears. I love stopping in the local Vietnamese restau- rant, iPho, and seeing my friend who works there
(I also love when she gives me free thai iced tea). I love that the worker at the Gulf gas station knows my name, and that friends of mine have access to club rooms on campus. It often feels like a movie, living in this tiny town where almost everything seems rigged in your favor.
With my new age and optimistic mindset, I feel like the confusion I have will eventually be sorted out. In the grand scheme of things, everyone’s just figuring it out, and allowing for everyone to do that at their own comfortable pace is all part of growing up.